The following appeared in The Racing Biz on September 22nd. “Commonwealth Day” at Laurel is Saturday September 30th. We hope to see many Virginia racing fans, horsemen and industry participants at the event. Looking for a weekend racing getaway? Shenandoah Downs, Virginia’s only harness track, hosts its third weekend of fall pari-mutuel racing on September 30th and October 1st. Try the Laurel card on Saturday and Shenandoah card on Sunday!
A total of 185 horses, including several multiple graded stakes winners led by Grade 1 winner American Patriot, were nominated for the eight stakes, three graded, worth $850,000 that make up the ‘Class on the Grass’ program on Saturday Sept. 30, at Laurel Park.
All eight stakes, led by the $200,000 Baltimore-Washington International Turf Cup (G2), $200,000 Commonwealth Derby (G3) and $150,000 Commonwealth Oaks (G3), will be contested over Laurel’s world-class turf course.
Multiple graded stakes winners Hawksmoor, Heart to Heart and millionaire Ring Weekend; graded winners Ballagh Rocks, Flatlined, Irish Strait and Tower of Texas and multiple stakes winners John Jones and Offering Plan are also among the nominees, along with Special Envoy, a winner of back-to-back stakes this summer at Laurel; 2016 Queen’s Plate winner Sir Dudley Digges; Brazilian Group 1 winner June, fourth in the All Along Sept. 16 at Laurel; and three-time Grade 1-placed multimillionaire Neolithic.
The Commonwealth Derby for 3-year-olds at 1 1/8 miles drew 25 nominees led by Just Howard, a winner of three straight including back-to-back Laurel stakes for trainer Graham Motion. Hall of Fame (G2) winner Bricks and Mortar, who has one loss in five career starts; multiple stakes winners Bonus Points, Master Plan, Mr. Misunderstood and 2017 Canadian classic winner Channel Maker; Voodoo Song, who extended his win streak to four races last out in the Sept. 2 Saranac (G2) at Saratoga, are also nominated.
With 35 nominations, the most popular race among horsemen was the Commonwealth Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at 1 1/8 miles. Among the nominees is Holy Helena, winner of the Queen’s Plate in July at Woodbine; graded winners Fifty Five, Uni and Rymska, the latter unraced since taking the Sweetest Chant (G3) in February at Gulfstream Park; multiple stakes winner Party Boat and I’m Betty G, winner of the Pearl Necklace against fellow Maryland-breds July 15 at Laurel.
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey has won the past two editions of the Commonwealth Oaks with Onus in 2015 and My Impression in 2016. He has three fillies nominated – Danceland and Stuart Janney III homebreds In the Lee, a winner of two of three career starts, all at Laurel, and Initiate.
Also on the Sept. 30 schedule are five $60,000 stakes for Virginia-bred/sired horses which drew a total of 96 nominations – the Jamestown for 2-year-olds (17), Punch Line for 3-year-olds and up (18) and Oakley for females 3 and older (21), all at 5 ½ furlongs; the Bert Allen for 3-year-olds and up (24) and Brookmeade for fillies and mares 3 and up (16), both at 1 1/16 miles.
Among the leading nominees are Just Call Kenny, winner of the Iselin (G3) Aug. 26 at Monmouth Park, in the Bert Allen; multiple stakes winner Two Notch Road in the Punch Line, a race he won in 2014 and 2015 and was third last year; and multiple stakes winner Queen Caroline in the Brookmeade.